The war in Afghanistan is often depicted as a battle between jihadi groups and the U.S. or the west. But Afghanistan is also a theater for the struggle between India and Pakistan and for the domestic struggles of Pakistan. This is the second major terrorist attack on an Indian target since the election of a civilian government in Pakistan. Nine synchronized bombs killed 63 people in the Indian city of Jaipur on May 13, just before the first high-level diplomatic meeting between India and Pakistan after the elections. Part of the context of this attack is also the Afghan official, public charges that the Pakistani intelligence agency, ISI, organized the attempted assassination of President Karzai in Kabul in April. These attacks seem designed to sabotage any improvement of relations between Pakistan and either of its two neighbors, India and Afghanistan, to assure that Pakistan has no alternative but to continue to support militant organizations as part of its foreign policy.I might add that there is also a consistent pattern of attacks on Indian road construction teams in southwest Afghanistan. These teams are constructing a road linking Afghanistan to the Persian Gulf via the Iranian rail and road network, which would bypass both Karachi and Pakistan's new port in Gwadar. This road also passes through the Baluch parts of Afghanistan and Iran, next to the Pakistani province of Baluchistan, where Pakistan charges India with supporting nationalist/separatist insurgents.
Juan Cole on Informed Comment links the bombing to the attack yesterday in Islamabad and posits:
Since the neo-Taliban want to pull down the Karzai government, trying to scare the Indians into leaving would be a way of removing one foreign pillar of support from the edifice of state.The link to the Islamabad attack on the anniversary of the raid on the Red Mosque may well be valid, but, along with the pattern I cited above, it looks to me more like it forms a pattern of a regional strategy by those who want to place (or keep) the state in Pakistani in the jihadi camp. In addition, in my (admittedly limited) contact with Taliban and in examining Taliban texts from Afghan sources, I see a focus on foreign troops in Afghanistan, not the Karzai government or India.
I heard on the radio that "Taliban" have claimed responsibility for this act. (Also reported by Reuters.) Let's see which "Taliban." Did it come from the former Taliban leadership in Quetta, or did it come from the Haqqani group in North Waziristan? (Note that both command and control centers of the Taliban are in Pakistan.) The latter is campaigning for predominance -- last week a document surfaced in which Jalaluddin Haqqani charged Mullah Umar and the Quetta shura with incompetence. (The authenticity of this document has yet to be established -- facsimile above left from here. [UPDATE 1: A source in Kabul who has been investigating it tells me the document is mostly likely a fake. Psy-ops, I guess.]) Kabul is also focusing its accusations of terrorism on the Haqqani group, which it claims reports daily to the ISI and which has much closer links to al-Qaida and the Pakistani Taliban than does the Quetta shura.
UPDATE 2: Now I heard on NPR that the "Taliban" have denied responsibility. Let me stick my neck out here: I don't believe that the Kandahari Taliban leadership would mount an attack like this against the Indian embassy. The idea of such an attack came from some combination of all or some of the following: the Haqqani group (as part of a campaign for Pakistani support), Pakistani Taliban, al-Qaida, and the Pakistani security agencies, or private entities under their supervision.
Reuters: The Afghan "Interior Ministry believes this attack was carried out in coordination and consultation with an active intelligence service in the region," that is, Pakistan's ISI.
Taliban (Quetta shura) spokesman denies responsibility:
Pakistan Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi condemned the attack. I heard him on the BBC (I can't find the interview on line yet), and he sounded very sincere and pained by it, almost as if the attack were aimed at his government -- which it might be.
Still, aspokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, denied that the militants were behind the bombing. The Taliban tend to claim responsibility for attacks that inflict heavy tolls on international or Afghan troops, and deny responsibility for attacks that primarily kill Afghan civilians.
"Whenever we do a suicide attack, we confirm it," Mujahid said. "The Taliban did not do this one."
UPDATE 3: According to someone who who spent most of the 1980s with the mujahidin in Afghanistan, even then Jalaluddin Haqqani was saying that the number one enemy was India. I've asked a few people, and so far no one can recall hearing this kind of talk from the core Taliban in Quetta. In my experience, the Kandahari mujahidin resisted Pakistani influence quite strongly.